We explain what is happening with traffic safety in Ukraine, why it is important in times of war, reconstruction and European integration of Ukraine, and how human lives can be saved on our roads.
The information material is based on the expert discussion that took place at the beginning of the Traffic Safety Week on the sixth anniversary of the ‘For Safe Roads’ Campaign with the participation of representatives of central authorities and NGOs working in the field of traffic safety. The discussion was organized by the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM) together with U-Cycle (Kyiv Cyclists’ Association NGO) on 14 November at Ukrinform.
Traffic accidents statistics in the times of war
According to the patrol police, 14,622 traffic accidents with fatalities and injuries occurred in Ukraine-controlled territories during 2022, killing 2,161 people and injuring another 18,261. There is no data on the total number of road accidents in Ukraine because in some accidents participants use EuroProtocol. That is why the patrol police has data only on road accidents with victims.
Oleksii Biloshytskyi, the First Deputy Head of the Patrol Police Department of Ukraine noted: “The number of traffic accidents is 29% less than last year, but the lives we lose on the roads of Ukraine, so in vain – it is very painful. Around the third or fourth month of the full-scale war, we realized that even during martial law we should not forget about traffic safety. Society is quickly getting used to permissiveness, so we have brought back control measures on the roads of Ukraine: on May 16, the work of the photo and video recording camera was resumed, as was speed measurement using TruCAM tools. During the first month of operation of both types of recording, 1.5 million speeding tickets were issued”.
According to Biloshytskyi, the war has created additional hazards on Ukraine’s roads. First of all, these are roadblocks (checkpoints). The patrol police has created many requirements for them in order to streamline and reduce risks for road users. Secondly, the shelling of energy infrastructure forces the whole country to save electricity – which means that even at night, street lighting is often dimmed or turned off altogether. Because of this, the number of fatal pedestrian accidents has increased: From October 10 to October 23, 51 pedestrians died on the streets of Ukrainian cities, 38 of them after the sunset. In general, the number of accidents with pedestrians being killed during this period increased by 25%.
“When we talk about the visibility of pedestrians and cyclists on the road, it is important to remember that you cannot shift responsibility to vulnerable road users. Car drivers should be just as responsible and realize that speeding reduces their ability to notice and react to pedestrians or bicycle users on the road,” said Taras Shevchenko, Deputy Minister of Culture and Information Policy, during the panel discussion.
Main causes of traffic accidents
Excessive speed remains the No. 1 killer on Ukrainian roads. According to the Patrol Police, in the first half of 2022, speeding accounted for more than 44% of the accidents. It also increases the risk of getting into an accident. After all, if some non-standard situation arises, the driver has less time – and, therefore, less opportunity to react (besides, the braking distance becomes longer). If an accident does occur, speed increases the severity of injuries, and therefore the likelihood of fatal consequences. This applies to all road users: car drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists. According to WHO, a 5% reduction in average speed can reduce the number of fatal accidents by 30%.
The risk factors identified by the WHO as the causes of the highest number of road accidents with fatalities and injuries include ignoring seat belts and child safety seats, and using phones while driving.
“Accidents on the roads are preventable, they could not have happened. This can be done thanks to a set of solutions, from legislative to infrastructural. It has been scientifically proven that cameras are the most effective in preventing road accidents and speeding. However, so far the punishment for speeding in Ukraine is disproportionate to its consequences,” said Olesia Kholopik, Director of the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM).
‘FOR SAFE ROADS’ CAMPAIGN IN UKRAINE
‘For Safe Roads’ Campaign was launched in November 2016 by the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law in partnership with NGO Vision Zero and U-Cycle (Kyiv Cyclists’ Association NGO). Since its launch, the Campaign has been supported by the Patrol Police of Ukraine, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, the State Service of Ukraine for Transport Safety, the Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, a number of local governments and responsible businesses. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on the roads of Ukraine through advocacy for changes in state policy on road safety, analytical work and awareness-raising campaigns. The main areas of advocacy include:
- Reducing excessive speed of automobile traffic and expanding the functionality of the system of automatic recording of traffic violations;
- Increasing the level of use of seat belts and baby car seats;
- Reducing the use of mobile phones while driving.
Already during the full-scale war, “Don’t Add To The Problem” Awareness Raising Campaign took place in Ukrainian cities, reminding Ukrainians that every accident that could have been avoided turns into extra work for law enforcement officers, first responders and doctors, and in the times of war it is so important to save their time. “In times of war, rescuers, doctors and police save lives, so our social ad “Don’t Add To The Problem” emphasizes that every accident on the road means additional work for them, so it’s better to follow traffic rules and avoid getting into accidents,” explained Olesia Kholopik.
VICTORIES IN THE FIELD OF ROAD SAFETY FOR 6 YEARS OF THE CAMPAIGN
- Reducing the speed limit in the settlements of Ukraine from 60 to 50 km/h (2017)
All the European Union countries have a standard speed limit in settlements at 50 km/h or less, now Ukraine has joined them.
- Introducing a system of automatic photo-video recording of traffic violations
As of June 1, 2020, speeding is recorded automatically. It is speeding that causes the most accidents in Ukraine. Therefore, the launch and operation of cameras will encourage drivers to follow traffic rules that will save both their and passengers’ lives.
- Increasing fines for traffic violations
In 2021, fines for speeding increased: exceeding the speed limit by more than 20 km/h is punishable by a fine of UAH 340, by more than 50 km/h – UAH 1,700. Before that, the penalties for the corresponding violations amounted to UAH 255 and UAH 510. Penalties for ignoring seat belts and using phones while driving have increased from UAH 51 to UAH 510.
- Road safety audit
Safety audits are mandatory for national and international highways in Ukraine. During Ukraine’s reconstruction, it is important to design and build roads that will save lives.
“The reconstruction of Ukrainian roads and highways should not happen by copying previous construction experience, but by considering safety solutions. The road should not encourage speeding and should take into account that every person makes mistakes. It is the designers who should provide for infrastructure solutions that minimize human errors and consequences of road accidents,” emphasized Kostiantyn Shcherbachenko, Head of the Ukrainian Association of Road Safety Auditors NGO.
- Changes in behavior: drivers started to use seat belts more
Fastening a seatbelt is the most effective way to save a life in an accident, and increase in responsibility for violations is one of the world’s most effective practices in changing people’s behavior. Every year, the CEDEM experts in cooperation with NGO “Vision Zero” conduct studies to find out the percentage of Ukrainian drivers using seat belts. For 6 years of the ‘For Safe Roads’ Campaign, this indicator has increased by 10% (from 15% to 25%). However, the number of drivers who do not wear a seat belt behind the wheel is still very high: 50% to 70%, depending on the city.
HOW TO PREVENT TRAFFIC RULE VIOLATIONS AND SAVE LIVES ON THE ROADS
- The vision of zero mortality
Ukraine continues to lose up to 10 human lives on the roads every day. Our country has one of the highest road traffic death and injury rates in Europe. During the war, mobility became a basic necessity for the survival of the entire country. For urban mobility to be safe for all, mobility policy should be based on the Vision Zero concept, which is widespread and adopted at the national level in many European countries. This refers to the principle of zero fatal accidents as well as accidents with serious injuries. This means a systematic approach and the introduction of a number of policies, such as appropriate speed limits, road safety education, infrastructure improvements for greater use of public transport, cycling, lightweight personal transport and walking.
“U-Cycle has begun the process of building a coalition of NGOs and a manifesto that contains a vision of zero road deaths and injuries for Ukraine and priority steps to achieve this goal at the state level. During the war, we have high human losses among the military and civilians, some of the evacuated people will never return to Ukraine. Therefore, to make sure that the roads and streets do not take lives and to do everything possible for traffic safety means preserving the human potential for the country and its reconstruction,” said Denys Moliaka, Head of U-Cycle (Kyiv Cyclists’ Association NGO), an expert on sustainable urban mobility.
- Cancellation of non-penalized 20 km/h
Impunity for exceeding the speed by 20 km/h is stipulated in the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses, adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR back in 1984. Apart from Ukraine, the so-called non-penalized 20 km/h is stipulated only in the legislation of the Russian Federation. Ukrainian legislation needs derussification and decommunization in the matter of speeding on the roads.
“In my opinion, this is a mishap that society should correct in 2022. Now we have accurate speed measuring devices. Drivers often exceed the speed limit by up to 20 km/h, knowing that they will not be fined. But if an accident happens, this “benefit” will not save you from severe injuries and death. In fact, we as a state allow drivers to exceed the speed limit by up to 20 km/h. Abolition of this non-penalized 20 km/h will seriously affect traffic safety. Such non-penalized speeding exists only in the legislation of Ukraine and Russia, there is no such thing in European countries. There should be inevitability of punishment,” said Dmytro Kochukov, U-Cycle expert on traffic safety, lawyer and author of a study on the impact of speeding on deaths and injuries in traffic accidents. The presentation of the study will be held on November 17 at UCMC.
- Introduction of penalty points
The system of penalty points is one of the European practices, the introduction of which in Ukraine has great potential for improving the level of road safety. This system provides for the accumulation of penalty points for systematic violations of traffic rules and loss of driving privilege in case of a critical number of such points.
The Ukrainian Patrol Police has been working on a draft law on the introduction of penalty points. Oleksii Biloshytskyi, the First Deputy Head of the Patrol Police Department of Ukraine said: “There are violators who neglect the system of prosecution for traffic violations, because for certain segments of the population these fines are insignificant. Therefore, penalty points could solve this issue, because the accumulation of penalty points implies negative consequences for the driver.”
“Penalty points are a non-fiscal tool that will not take money away from family budgets. The 10% of drivers who cause 90% of all problems on the road do not understand the language of penalty points, nor the explanations or awareness raising campaigns. Penalty points apply to traffic offenders who systematically and knowingly violate traffic rules. 90% of drivers, who usually do not violate, support the introduction of such points. Penalty points can be implemented digitally. It is quite possible and not very expensive to integrate the system of penalty points into the Diia System,” summarized Viktor Zahreba, founder and chairman of Vision Zero NGO.